When Green Is Not a Good Thing

You may have noticed that the grass is a little greener these days over your septic drain field.  While having a lush lawn over the septic drain field is often a desirable goal of many homeowners, it may signal that a problem is brewing below the surface. Any bright green patches or strips should be regarded as early warning signs that your septic drain field may be failing.

Soggy or spongy soil, and possible backups into your home, may accompany this sign. If the soil can no longer absorb the wastewater that flows out of the septic tank into the septic drain field, it can rise to the surface and pool. That’s when wet patches may show up on the grass over the septic drain field. You also may see muddy soil coming back into the house in your basement, sink or toilets when you flush or do laundry. The pungent stench of sewage around the septic drain field should also alert you to a potential problem.

Experts agree that the best covering for your septic drain field is grass because it helps to remove water and nutrients from the soil and prevent soil erosion.  However, some homeowners landscape a drain field because they may have limited space in their yard or because they think it is an eyesore. Certain guidelines should be followed to ensure that your septic drain field performs efficiently as it was designed.

You should ensure that any plants do not have deep roots as they can clog the drainpipes that run underground in a septic drain field. Trees and shrubs should be avoided. Any flowers or vegetables should be low maintenance in terms of their need for water. You should be careful how much topsoil you add on a septic drain field because too much (2-3 inches or more) could prevent the exchange of air and water, and diminish the septic drain field’s ability to treat effluent.

The water from your roof and other household drains (e.g.: sump pump) should not be diverted into a septic system. Even if it is clean rainwater or surface water, this will not keep the grass green over your septic drain field. The opposite may actually occur. Excess water will overload the septic tank by stirring up the sludge on the bottom and flushing it out, which can lead to clogged pipes in the septic drain field.

Regardless of the cause, you should pay attention to what is causing any bright green grass on your septic drain field and find a solution that doesn’t cost you even more “green”.

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